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Cherish the ladies
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LOTS OF PROGRESSIVE, forward-thinking stuff going on in our little area these days:

Chatham County just passed a smoking ban like the one in the City of Savannah.

The Telfair Museums' PULSE Festival hits its stride this weekend, celebrating the meeting of art and technology with nationally-renowned thinkers and performers.

The second annual Savannah Stopover is set to bring the freshest, most happening young sounds in America to town for a big party.

Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) has introduced a bill in the Georgia legislature to allow solar energy to offset Georgia Power's ridiculous monopoly. See our piece by Jack Star this issue.

Yup, 2012 is in full swing in Savannah. But turn on your TV and it seems like the rest of America is still in 1912, or maybe even 1812.

Here we are in a world racked by war, rebellion, terrorism, economic distress, climate upheaval, and any number of other dire circumstances.

But all some presidential candidates want to talk about is... lady parts.

Lady parts, and what ladies should or should not be doing with them.

I'd call it an obsession, but that's giving them too much credit for thinking. When you hear a politician insist that women should never use contraception, then in the next sentence complain about too many babies being born out of wedlock, that's a person who isn't using their brain at all.

Not to mention someone without much understanding of lady parts!

The state of Virginia last week nearly passed a bill mandating that, regardless of what their doctor advises or their insurance company will pay for, pregnant women receive an invasive procedure called a "transvaginal ultrasound" before getting an abortion. (Several other states currently have the same law.)

In a chilling detail seemingly lifted straight out of The Scarlet Letter, if the patient refuses to look at the results of said ultrasound, her refusal will be noted in her medical record.

Granted, this is an extreme example, so extreme in fact that Virginia's extreme right-wing Gov. Bob McDonnell soon backed off. But it vividly shows how clueless our society can be with regards to women's issues, even in 2012. The fact that a woman initially proposed the bill doesn't make it any less harmful or insulting.

While I will not and cannot claim a detailed grasp of women's health issues, my own experience as a father and husband shows me time and time again that misogyny is a very serious but strangely underreported issue in our usually hyper-sensitive society.

For example, most displays of racism in America these days are promptly (and rightly) punished with near-universal disgust, contempt, and forfeiture of one's job.

In the corporate world, even an accusation of racial or cultural "insensitivity" can sink an entire career.

We don't seem nearly as protective of women, however. Sexism and misogyny are rarely punished in our society -­­- and in many cases are actually rewarded.

What's a potential reward for misogyny? In the case of this year's Republican presidential candidates, only the most powerful job in the entire world.

With so much nuttiness on display over the past few weeks -- the Susan G. Komen debacle, the uproar over religious freedom vs. contraception, the all-male Congressional hearing on birth control, the idiot Indiana congressman who said Savannah's beloved Girl Scouts have a communist, "pro-lesbian" agenda -- I've nearly lost the capacity to be shocked at the stupid things people say about women's issues.

Not to mention the maddening ways in which men will try to force all responsibility for reproductive decisions onto women instead of sharing responsibility.

But during the most recent GOP debate, there was an extended segment which made my jaw drop, a prolonged discussion between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum about the use of the so-called "morning-after" pill by rape victims.

In my silly little post-Enlightenment, 21st Century world, I figured that any normal, decent, marginally compassionate person would say, but of course the morning-after pill should automatically be available for rape victims.

I felt safe in assuming that, of all people on the face of the planet, a rape victim might be the one person for whom we can all agree the easy availability of a morning-after contraception pill should be a no-brainer.

But no. Paul and Santorum instead debated what level and type of abortion the morning-after pill represents. Not a word about what a rape victim might need or want in the depths of her shock and despair.

In their minds, she's not even an afterthought. She's no thought at all.

The fact that the notoriously regressive Rick Santorum took a position which might have been extreme in Nathaniel Hawthorne's time was no surprise. But keep in mind that not only is Ron Paul supposedly a big supporter of personal liberty, he's also an obstetrician.

Yet so constricting and condescending is the right wing's view of women's issues that not even their OB/GYN candidate would speak up for a rape victim's rights to privacy, dignity, independence, and basic health care!

Less profound but still annoying is the rank hypocrisy of the usual suspects, like Paul himself, who constantly lecture us about the need for small government and the danger of "big government overreach" while supporting literally the most invasive type of government overreach conceivable, i.e., things like state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds.

Of course, as most women are well aware and despite what any politician tells you, the real issue here is neither small government nor traditional family values nor religious freedom.

The issue is the same one it's always been with regards to male authority figures and women:

Power. Intimidation. Bullying.

I'm not the world's biggest expert on women. But I do know one thing women really hate is being bullied by men -- especially men who've made no effort whatsoever to understand or care about their needs.

So to my more socially conservative right-wing friends I say, your motto might be "Don't Tread on Me."

But if you keep treading on American women they're going to make your big tough Tea Party look like, well... a tiny little actual tea party.

You've awakened a sleeping giant, guys. And as the old saying goes:

Hell hath no fury....